Health experts have issued a warning about the increased risk of sepsis in individuals who have experienced a COVID-19 infection. Previously, sepsis was primarily associated with bacterial infections, but a study conducted by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital has found that sepsis can also be caused by viral infections, including the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.
Sepsis is a condition in which the body’s immune system responds abnormally to an infection, leading to widespread inflammation and organ damage. In severe cases, sepsis can be life-threatening. The study revealed that one in six cases of sepsis during the first two-and-a-half years of the COVID-19 pandemic were linked to the virus.
The research team analyzed health records from five hospitals and found that 5.4% of hospitalizations were caused by COVID-19. Among those affected, 28% developed COVID-associated sepsis. The mortality rate for individuals with COVID-linked sepsis initially stood at 33% in the first three months of the pandemic but decreased over time to around 14.5%, similar to the rate seen in bacterial sepsis.
The findings suggest that current guidelines for managing sepsis should be reevaluated to consider viral infections as a potential cause. Lead author Claire Shappell emphasized the need for tailored diagnosis and treatment strategies for each patient’s specific syndrome and probable pathogen. The study’s framework could also be applied to identify sepsis caused by other viruses, such as influenza or respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
In light of these discoveries, healthcare professionals are urging individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 to be vigilant for signs of sepsis. It is essential to seek immediate medical attention if experiencing confusion, slurred speech, a rash that doesn’t fade, discolored or blotchy skin, or difficulty breathing.
– Brigham and Women’s Hospital
– US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)